tea time

A conversation between the farmwives:

Good Morning, ladies…

I’m wondering how you all deal with your spring broccoli. I know both of you currently have it growing but Eric and I can’t stand to grow it in the spring. We greatly prefer to grow it in the fall. Broccoli likes it hot to germinate, and right now it’s cold. Broccoli likes to mature when it’s cooler, and if your starting plants right now, that means it’s maturing in, roughly, mid May or so depending on the variety. May can sometimes be hot enough here that when you harvest it, well, it declines so quickly… and without a walk-in cooler, we seem to lose so much! The window of harvesting is also so small when the temperatures are warmer. (It is a flower after all and that seems like all it wants to do!) And don’t even get me started on all of the insects, namely the imported cabbage moth and its caterpillars, which are prolific in the spring and love the stuff. Please share some of you secrets to growing good spring broccoli…

Robin here agreeing with everything you just said. we had given up the spring broccoli for all of these reasons (and even more but we don’t have time to go on!!). we are trying again this year, starting the plants way earlier. we seeded them in january and today they look like this

you also mention the post harvest handling and let me tell you, with broccoli it IS an ordeal. we harvest it first thing on that friday morning and cool it in ice water. we dip all of our greens, etc in cold water as part of our process anyway, but the broccoli, oh boy, ice ice ice
it is the only way…seems a lot to go through i know, but for some crazy reason we are going for it again this year. just think of that perfectly fresh lightly steamed delight. with the early january start, we shall try this one last time, don’t hold me to that, but i will keep you posted. coree, what do you think?

Yes, Coree agrees too.  The Man Around Here says that Farming/Gardening is largely an exercise in gambling, and we are crazy gamblers.  Broccoli being “America’s favorite vegetable” and all, we just keep trying.

We plant in soil blocks pretty early, and keep them on a small heat strip which doesn’t stress the solar power, on a table near a south facing window.  We move them out to the green house ASAP and just pray they don’t get too leggy before we can put them out.

Sometimes the broccoli doesn’t work in the Spring (heck, sometimes it barely works in the Fall).  But when it does, the payoff is so amazing that it makes us forget how much work was involved.  Should a Spring planting of broccoli succeed, holding it from harvest to delivery is one of the biggest problems.  Really fresh broccoli doesn’t just hang around like it does in the grocery store.  Early picking, while the heads are still really tight, and way before the sun hits the plants, ice and more ice, all these things help a lot.

We’re also working with some open pollinated varieties these past couple years.  The main heads are not so large and they really produce an abundance of nice side shoots.  Side shoots are great.  They just keep coming, so if we have to pick early and can’t hold a batch all the way to delivery, it’s not so devastating. We can pick them with a tight bead and throw a couple handfuls into each basket.  People still get a really great experience of fresh broccoli, and we can stretch another week or more of giving them before we pull them to make room for whatever comes next.  We’re also hoping to find a nice open pollinated one (working with Solstice this year, from Fedco) to start saving for seed and developing into a more reliable strain for our location.


You bring the carrots, Cher, and God-willing we’ll bring the broccoli.  How great it will be to have salad!

6 thoughts on “tea time

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